ACCESS to clean water is again being highlighted by the recently revived Malaysia-Singapore water issue and the call to preserve the Ulu Muda Forest Reserve.
While memories of disruption in supply and queuing for water with buckets and pails are still fresh, we should acknowledge and appreciate the crucial role of forests in water catchment, flood control and watershed protection. To achieve a water secure future, we should therefore seriously contemplate the idea of paying to safeguard our forests.
The concept of payment for ecosystem services (PES), where a provider of an ecosystem service is paid to preserve or maintain the service, is not new. Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow’s offer of compensation to Kedah for the loss of timber revenue as a result of ceasing logging activities in the Ulu Muda Forest Reserve (pic) is an example of PES.
With Pakatan Harapan governing Penang and Kedah, the powers that be should be able to come up with a PES scheme without much difficulty. If necessary, the federal government should support and facilitate the process.
PES, however, should not be confused with payment for raw water. Should PES be incorporated into the Malaysia-Singapore water deal? I trust this warrants discussion from all the stakeholders.
Logging in the Opposition states of Pahang, Kelantan, Terengganu and Sarawak, however, is a more worrying concern.
It was mentioned in the Pakatan manifesto that a logging quota would be enforced strictly to conserve our forests.
With Pakatan helming the federal government, these four states, however, might not adhere to the federal directive.
After all, forest management is under the state’s jurisdiction. What I truly fear is that lack of federal support and allocation to these states would be used as a convenient excuse to intensify logging activities to generate state revenue.
In the past, it was common for smaller logging concessions to be awarded away from public view to prevent scrutiny.
As the Barisan National coalition currently lacks credibility to be a strong opposition, the public and media must step up and assume oversight of our government.
Online sources such as Global Forest Watch (https://www.globalforestwatch.org/dashboards/country/MYS) and USGS GloVis allow anyone with reliable Internet access to monitor deforestation and land conversion in Malaysia with just a few clicks.
Do not remain quiet and wait until our rivers are heavily polluted, our homes flooded or our access to clean water is disrupted before taking action.
We are responsible for our future and the generations beyond.
Ignorance is not bliss.